November 29, 2010
Brockway fire truck comes home
Candor Fire Department donates former Cortland truck to museum
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Bill O’Gorman, right, and Jim Nadge look over a 1915 Brockway fire truck that was recently donated to the Brockway Museum. The truck, originally built for the Cortland Fire Department, has been donated by the Candor Fire Department.
CORTLANDVILLE — Bill O’Gorman and Jim Nadge are accustomed to receiving Brockway trucks for the Living History Museum that is slowly taking shape on Homer Avenue, but even they were surprised by a recent donation.
The Candor Fire Department in Tioga County said it had an old fire truck made by Brockway Truck Co. and asked if the museum was interested. But the truck’s history was more complicated — it had been the Cortland Fire Department’s No. 1 truck early in the 20th century.
Cortland had donated the truck to Candor.
Now the truck was coming home.
“I look at it as, we saved another piece of history,” Nadge said Saturday, patting the truck as it sat in a corner of the museum.
Nadge and O’Gorman are trustees for the Brockway Truck Preservation Association, which is planning that part of the museum. The Living History Museum also encompasses the Homeville Museum and other permanent displays.
The museum is being overseen by the Homer-Cortland Community Agency, which owns the property.
The museum in the former A.B. Brown department store is taking shape as its 23,000 square feet of space is transformed.
New walls and new rooms, including bathrooms, offices and a conference room have been constructed on the second floor in the past couple of months. The Brockway board contributed $20,000 toward the work.
But Nadge said much of the work being done to the building is volunteer. Part of the museum’s money comes from the annual Brockway parade, which celebrates the company that was a mainstay of Cortland’s economy from 1912 until it closed in 1977.
He pointed out a 1973 yellow ladder truck driven to the parade in 2009 by a Pennsylvania fire department, which left it with the museum after the firefighters saw what was being planned. The Truxton Fire Department donated a 1952 fire truck in October.
The truck from Candor is one of many Brockway vehicles that will be displayed at some point.
But O’Gorman said it has a special history.
The truck was built around 1915 and purchased by the Cortland Fire Department. It had a chain-driven transmission and was started by turning a crank.
The truck was refurbished in 1930, with a new chassis and the addition of a tank to pump chemicals onto flames, a new technology at the time.
Cortland Standard articles located by Duke Glover, the fire department’s historian, say the truck had been replaced by newer ones by 1945 and was used mostly for emergency calls and annual hose races, when Fire Chief Arthur Frederick decided to refurbish it again.
The firefighters, doing the work themselves, added a 180-gallon water tank and booster pump, remodeled the body to provide space for 200 feet of 1-inch booster hose and 100 feet of 3/4-inch booster hose, then redesigned it to accommodate 800 feet of 1 1/2-inch hose and 1,000 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose.
The department added tanks for liquid foam and carbon dioxide, plus tarpaulins, smoke masks and searchlights.
The department kept the truck until 1954, then donated it to Candor, which keept the “CFD” lettering on its side.
Over the decades, the Candor Fire Department added more trucks and build a new fire station. It retired the truck in a shed, then stored it in the new station.
“They were going to restore it,” Nadge said. “They had taken off the windshield and the headlights, which were mounted on a bumper. But they ran out of money or interest.”
“If we hadn’t stepped up and gotten this truck, it would have been sent for scrap,” O’Gorman said. “Candor said they had a Brockway truck. When someone wants to make a donation, you need to seriously look at it. Then, to learn something is coming home, that was nice.”
O’Gorman brought the truck from Candor on a trailer owned by Hugh Riehlman, the Homer-Cortland Community Agency’s president.
Nadge said the museum board members will restore the truck in the next year, although the building itself is a higher priority. One artist’s rendering calls for a fire station replica to be constructed next to the museum’s building.
Board members plan to treat the crankshaft with oil until it can be turned at least a little.
Pulling up the hood that folds over the engine on the front, Nadge pointed out that the engine was unique at the time, without belts or pulleys. Its fan is gear-driven.
The truck had two headlights in front and another light mounted near the windshield. Nadge said its generator could not power more than three lights in addition to powering the engine.
Both men said they are continually surprised at what has grown from the Brockway parade that was planned initially as a one-time event in 2000, as part of Cortland County’s Centennial. Now an annual event, the parade attracts Brockway truck owners from around the nation and draws hundreds of people to downtown Cortland. The event’s growth led to the push to create a Brockway museum.
“This was all from the community,” O’Gorman said. “I moved here in 1979 and was involved in collecting cars. For people to want to purchase these trucks and restore them, it is amazing. So many Brockway trucks are on the road, still working.”
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